Basic Indoor Lighting

Four indispensable tips for taking your best indoor photos
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I love the great outdoors—the smell of a pine forest, the wind on my face, the chill of a frosty morning, and the feel of an impending storm all get my adrenaline pumping. All inspire me to fill many CF cards. But now that the weather coaxes me to remain inside, I turn on my "interior switch" and get equally as excited as I target my list of indoor images. Use the following tips and techniques to create some great indoor photographs.

BOUNCE IT: Flash is a great tool, but it creates hard and contrasty light. When mounted to a hot-shoe or built into the camera, it produces flat light and dark shadows behind the subject. To create a softer look, aim the flash at a white ceiling to bounce a soft light onto the subject. If you're using a point-and-shoot with a built-in flash you can't do this, but there's a compromise. Move your subject away from the wall and turn on all the room lights. The farther away from the wall you position the model, the less the effect of the dark shadow. Having all the lights in the room switched on will help fill in surrounding shadow areas softening the contrast.

DIFFUSE IT: Bright overcast conditions are superb for photographing people. Light from the sun is softened and it creates an even and easy light with which to work. In that light from a flash is harsh and contrasty, placing "a cloud" over it softens its quality. This is accomplished with the use of an auxiliary diffuser. They attach to the front of your flash and are available at most camera stores. They come in different sizes to fit different flashes and are fairly inexpensive.

COME TO MY WINDOW: North facing windows or those not exposed to direct sun make wonderful light sources for portraits of people, flowers, or still-lifes. Although the light is soft, you can enhance or lessen the contrast a couple of ways. The closer the subject is to a window, the greater the contrast between the shadows and highlights. Move the subject away from it to soften the effect. Another way to control contrast is through the use of reflectors placed on the shadow side of the subject. A silver reflector bounces a lot of light. A white one reflects less. Gold reflectors provide a warm glow and make the image more romantic.

MIX IT UP: Window light, flash, and tungsten light each have their own characteristics. Experiment and combine any two or all three. At different ratios, the results can be quite unique. A portrait shot with window light as the primary source can be combined with light from a tungsten lamp to produce a yellow, orange fill. Play around and have fun.


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